By Florence Avakian
NEW YORK — From the moment legendary opera diva Lucine Amara walked in to her surprise 90th birthday party, to the last spirited and musical tributes, the event was a joyous and glittering affair.
Taking place on Monday evening March 2, at the Diocesan Center, close to 100 invited friends, colleagues and admirers had come — from Florida, Delaware, upstate New York and other faraway locations — to honor the internationally acclaimed singer, who has performed in 882 productions at the Metropolitan Opera in New York during 41 years, along with 57 radio broadcasts, and many recordings to her credit.
And in the last 20 years, Amara has been the artistic director and guiding light of the Verismo Opera in Fort Lee, NJ, helping and inspiring young budding artists in their careers.
On the day of her birthday, March 1, New Jersey’s Bergen Record published a front-page profile of her in its Better Living section, focusing on why she was not only the leading star of countless productions at the Metropolitan Opera, but also the Met’s “reliable pinch-hitter” when there was a cancellation. Notable was the time when with a 102 fever, Amara had to be roused from a sickbed to play in “Die Meistersinger” because no one else could sing it. She was the only artist who could step in and sing any role.
As Amara stepped out of the elevator on March 2, with her daughter, singer Evelyn La Quaif, who had planned and organized the surprise tribute, her warm smile turned to utter disbelief, as the crowd dressed in their tuxedos and gowns sang a rousing Happy Birthday to her. “I’m glad Evelyn told me to wear my lashes,” she gushed happily in her typically ebullient manner, as she wiped away tears. “This is the biggest surprise of my life.”